Breast Health Basics


  • 1 in 8 women born today will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime. In the U.S. today, there are 2.9 million breast cancer survivors.
  • Aside from skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the United States. It is the most frequently diagnosed cancer among nearly every racial and ethnic group, including African American, American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian/Pacific Islander and Hispanic/Latina women.
  • Annually, approximately 232,000 new cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed among women in the United States and more than 40,000 women will die.
  • Men get breast cancer, too. Annually, an estimated 2,350 men in the U.S. will be diagnosed and more than 400 will die of breast cancer.


  • Annually, it is estimated that almost 6,100 new cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed among women in Virginia and that nearly 1,100 will die of the disease.


  • Every woman is at risk.
  • Nearly 90% of all women diagnosed with breast cancer have no family history or known risk factors. Research suggests that only 5-10% of breast cancer is related to one of several inherited susceptibility genes.
    • Learn about your family’s medical history.
    • Talk to your health care provider about your personal risk of breast cancer.


UPDATE – 10/20/2015 – The American Cancer Society has issued new guidelines that recommend that women start getting mammograms at 45 instead of 40, and that everyone can skip the routine manual breast checks by doctors.
  • Mammograms. Yearly mammograms are recommended starting at age 40 for those at average risk of developing breast cancer. If you are at higher risk, ask your health care provider what tests are right for you.
  • Clinical Breast Exam. Clinical breast exams by your health care provider should be part of a periodic health exam, about every three years for women in their 20s and 30s, and every year for women 40 and older.


  • A lump or thickening in or near the breast or in the underarm area.
  • Breast or nipple pain.
  • A change in the size or shape of the breast.
  • A nipple turned inward.
  • Scaly, rippled, red, or swollen skin on the breast, areola, or nipple.
  • Nipple discharge (fluid).
  • A new pain in one spot that does not go away.
  • Know your Body. Discuss any changes with your health care provider.
  • Choose a Healthy Lifestyle.
    • Maintain a healthy weight.
    • Add exercise into your routine.
    • Limit alcohol consumption.
    • Limit postmenopausal hormone use.
    • Breastfeed, if possible.

Remember, even if you find a lump or have other breast changes, it does not mean that you have breast cancer.  Confirmation of cancer can only be determined by microscopic examination of the tissue.

What if I don’t have Medical Insurance?  You may qualify for a free mammogram through the Virginia Department of Health’s Every Woman’s Life Program.  Call 1-866-395-4968 to see if you qualify.


Breast cancer develops more frequently in women, but men can get it too since they also have breast tissue.

Risk Factors for men include:

  • Growing Older. Risk increases with age.
  • Family History.
  • High Estrogen Levels. Men may have higher estrogen levels due to hormonal medications, heavy alcohol use, obesity, liver disease, or exposure to estrogens in the environment.
  • Radiation Exposure to the chest before age 30.
  • Klinefelter Syndrome. This syndrome is a condition present at birth that affects 1 in 1,000 men.

Many men do not realize they can develop breast cancer since the disease is more common in women. This can delay diagnosis and as a result, some cancers are not found until they have progressed to a later stage. However, when cancer is found at the same stage among men and women, the survival rates are similar. Because the male breast is much smaller than the female breast, it is more likely the disease will spread to the chest wall. For this reason, it is important to find the cancer early for successful treatment. See your health care provider right away if you have any lumps or changes in your breast or chest area.

Know your body.

Be your own health advocate!



Facts & Figures updated January 2015.  Page updated 10/20/2015.

The Virginia Breast Cancer Foundation is a non-profit organization committed to the eradication of breast cancer through education and advocacy.

Virginia Breast Cancer Foundation
5004 Monument Avenue
Suite 102
Henrico, VA 23230

800-345-8223 | 804-285-1200

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